Odysseus in the Underworld

Classical Mythology
Department of Classics
Monmouth College

SCHEDULE OF Topics and Activities
Fall Semester 2007

Aeneas and Anchises Escaping from Troy

Classical Mythology in Epic

Note: This Syllabus is a work in progress. Check regularly for changes and updates.



Aug. 28
Course Introductions
Questions: What do you think a myth is? What do you know about myths surrounding the Trojan War? How accurate do you think Wolfgang Petersen's Troy is? When does accuracy matter?
Read in class: Iliad I.357-427 (Achilles and Thetis)

Aug. 30
What is myth?
Definition of Myth (see the American Heritage Dictionary definition)  Also Cullen's "Yet Do I Marvel"; On Myths and Sisyphean Tasks
/ Homer UPenn

Read in class: Odyssey XI.582-600 (Tantalus and Sisyphus)

Sept. 4
Myths of Tantalus and Sisyphus in the Modern World

Using the Anthology of Classical Mythology
Questions on Sisyphus readings:
Which author tells us that Sisyphus founded the Isthmian games?
Which author describes Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill?
Questions on Tantalus readings:
What crime does Antoninius Liberalis say Tantalus committed?
Hyginus offers the most straightforward summary of Tanatlusí story. What crime does he lay on Tantalus? What additional punishment does he add besides hunger and thirst? What does he tell you about Pelopsí shoulder?
What does Lucian tell us about Tantalus and Ixion in On Sacrifices?
What punishment does Pindar mention?

Note: Most of the other readings actually deal with Tantalusí relatives like Niobe, Dirce, and Thyestes.

Paper due on Sept. 11th:
Discuss the role of myths of Sisyphus and/or Tantalus in the modern world and especially in your own life.

Sept. 6 Iliad 1-4
Epic Invocations and the Muse

Telling the Tale: In Medias Res

How does the Iliad begin? How does Petersen's Troy begin?

Iliad Cast of Characters / Iliad Summary

The Trojan Cycle: Summary of Events
Summary of Events / Sample Chronology Quiz on the Trojan War / Chronology of Ancient Sources

What is an epic? An introduction to Homer
Homer and Oral Poetry / Primary vs. Secondary Epic / Important Terms / Some  The Homer Homepage /

Peter Struck's CLAS200 Webpage at UPenn /   /
Trojan War / Odyssey

Read in class: Iliad 1-10; Odyssey 1-10; Aeneid 1-10

Sept. 11 Iliad 5-9
The Divine Machinery in Homer
Greek Pantheon  / The Pantheon  / The Major Gods / Genealogical Tables


Read in class: the Sceptre of Agamemnon (Book I)

Sept. 13 Iliad 9-13 (ACM meeting)
Quiz on
Iliad (1-9) Chronology (see
Sample Chronology Quiz on the Trojan War)

History and the Iliad: Was there a Trojan War?
Historical Chronology

Read "Did Theseus Slay the Minotaur?" (in the Public Documents Folder in Outlook)

Sept. 18 Iliad 14-18
The Gods in the Iliad

Read in Class: Athena Restrains Achilles (Iliad 1. 187-222)

Sept. 20 Iliad 19-24
The Gods in the Iliad Cont.


Sept. 25  
UNIT QUIZ on the Iliad

Sept. 27
The Iliad in Art


Oct. 2 Odyssey 1-4
Garrison Keilor's "Six-Minute Iliad"

Folktale Themes in the Iliad and the Odyssey

What is a hero? The Hero Pattern in the Iliad
Some Definitions of "Hero" / Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern

Important Greek Terms to understand Homeric heroes

Read in Class: Selections from the Embassy to Achilles (from Book IX)

Oct. 4 Odyssey 5-8
The Hero Quest in the Iliad
The Hero Quest / Stages in the Heroic Quest
Variations on the Theme of the Heroic Quest

Odyssey Overview:
Analysis / Characters Antithesis and Framing in the Odyssey / Study Questions / More Study Questions / Odyssey Chronology Quiz / Struck's Odyssey Page / Homer and Epic /

Overview of the Individualized Project

Read in Class: Selections from the Ransom of Hector (Book XXIV)

Oct. 9 Odyssey 9-12
The Cyclops, Circe and the Underworld


Response Paper: Achilles the Hero

Oct. 11 Odyssey 13-16

Quiz on Characters of the Odyssey and Folktale Themes in the Iliad and the Odyssey

Mid-Course Evaluation due

Oct. 16 Odyssey 17-20

Fall Break

Oct. 18 Odyssey 21-24

Project Prospectus Due

Oct. 23
The Gods in the Odyssey

Read in Class: the Lay of Demodokos: Ares and Aphrodite and Hephaistos, Book 8

Oct. 25
The Odyssey in Art: Ares and Aphrodite

Read in Class: Athena and Odysseus on Ithaca, Book 13

Oct. 30
Heroes and Heroines in Greek Epic: Penelope
The Hero Pattern applied to Women in Myth, History, and Literature


Nov. 1
Read Penelope to Ulysses in Ovid's Heroides in Anthology, pp. 306ff.
Theories of Myth and Homer : The Web of Myth

Nov. 6

Ways of Interpreting Myths

Cavafy's "Ithaca"

Nov. 8
UNIT QUIZ on the Odyssey including
Chronology of the Odyssey (see Odyssey Chronology Quiz)

Wishbone's Odyssey

Nov. 13 Aeneid 1
Packet / List of Characters
The Aeneid and Roman Values: Pietas, Prophecy, Etc.


Nov. 15 Aeneid 2

The Trojan War in Cartoon Art

Nov. 20 Aeneid 3-5

Vergil and Homer: Imitation is the Highest Form of Compliment

Nov. 22 Thanksgiving

Nov. 27 Aeneid 6
Katabasis Again

Vergil and Dante

Dante's Inferno / A Virtual Tour of Hell / Longfellow's Translation / Princeton Dante Project / Dante Dartmouth Project

Nov. 29 Aeneid 7-8

Odyssey Opera performed by Joe Godkin

Dec. 4 Aeneid 9-10


Dec. 6 Aeneid 11-12

The Aeneid in Art

Dec. 11
UNIT QUIZ on the Aeneid


Monday, Dec. 17 at 8 A.M. (Sorry)

Final Meeting
Presentations and course evaluation

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at toms@monm.edu.

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